Remembering PS1s finest hour with Final Fantasy 7

You’re not best advised to judge something’s quality by the general public’s clamour for its return. After all, look how successful the Take That reunion was, and the utterly inexplicable crowds that still gather outside the Big Brother asylum. However, when the calls are as loud and persistent as those for a remake of PS1’s greatest game, it’s best to take notice, and no, teasing a rerelease of the same version in a fan-baiting way doesn’t count. Even if it’s just so you can plan a swift escape from those men waving pitchforks and flaming torches.

Those calls are both justified and not. On the one hand, Final Fantasy 7 (opens in new tab) stands among the greatest games ever made. An epic in the truest sense, this is a game that gave so much. It provided us with a world that was simultaneously charming and threatening, hostile and full of wonder, and one that could be explored at your leisure as you flew around the map in your own private airship. It also introduced the turn-based RPG genre to a whole new audience.

As Sony’s relatively nascent console was making something of a splash in the West (you might’ve heard of it), its new legions of fans, seduced by social cache and the pumping beats of Wipeout no doubt, stumbled across something entirely different. And while this type of role-player was far from new in itself, FF7 elevated it to another level.

For one, it was a technical marvel. The FMV sequences seemed cinema-shaming in their beauty – it was impossible to believe that this little grey box was producing those images on your TV. Then there were the gloriously rendered and wonderfully diverse settings. And the incredible summon spells – attacks with a level of grandeur that gaming hadn’t seen before. And then there was the size of that world map, all there for you after the game’s dramatic opening. And then…

Brilliant as these things all were, they’re not really why the game is remembered so fondly. Because while long-time gamers may have experienced the emotive power of the medium before (Final Fantasy 6 is a good example of this, as it happens), for many this was untravelled ground. What had previously been a carefree and casual relationship – some light-hearted platforming here, some semi-competitive sports games there – instantly became something different when that moment happened. Perceptions shifted, and the power of videogames suddenly came screaming into a brand new focus.

Yet even though Final Fantasy 7’s most memorable moment is so for a very good reason, it was far from the game’s only heavy-hitter. With such a vast portion of the game remaining, what developed was a redemptive and revelatory journey, full of trials and angst and, ultimately, a truly beautiful conclusion. And even though all of this was played out by a blocky little characters who ‘spoke’ only via dialogue boxes, that was all part of the charm.

That’s why assessing whether or not a remake would actually be a good idea is such a difficult proposition. The motives for wanting such a thing are simple and entirely understandable: to recapture and relive the experience that meant so much. But rationally, we know that isn’t possible – that experience meant so much precisely because it was so eye-opening. In the 18 years since FF7’s release, we’ve grown up along with the medium.

Things are different now. And actually, seeing those familiar characters and well-known scenes play out using all the tools of modern technology might not be as magnificent as people like to imagine. At best it would probably be unsettling, at worse it would shatter all those treasured memories – like seeing the department store Santa having a fag round by the bins.

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